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Progress Report: Mobile Loyalty Programs Boost Members, Sales

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In a time when consumers are willing to bypass their favorite stores in search of better styling, quality or prices elsewhere, brands are leaning on loyalty programs to keep shoppers engaged.

But first they must overcome the hurdles associated with getting customers to sign up—and then use—these programs.

In an effort to help brands capture more users, mobile marketing company 3C revealed the results of its annual Mobile Loyalty Report, which polled 2,300 consumers and 580 brands in the U.S.

The survey found that loyalty program membership is up for 64 percent of the businesses represented in this survey, compared to 34 percent last year. Those with an uptick in memberships report that they have the most success recruiting users through mobile, the report found.

And the research revealed that people in these programs are more likely to shop than those who aren’t. Sixty-two percent of customers said they make trips to stores based on the mobile-enabled programs.

Though more consumers are joining these programs than ever, brands could enlist more still if the process for signing up were simpler. More than 60 percent of respondents say quicker sign-up would entice them into more programs. And 62 percent said companies require them to divulge too much information in order to unlock the membership perks.

Once in the programs, shoppers are looking for diverse ways to interact with these companies. While last year’s report showed that most would be content with SMS, email and apps, this year’s respondents are looking for those tools plus digital wallets, push notifications and virtual assistants.

The demand for assistants, which was the top request among consumers, was driven by consumers’ familiarity with Alexa and Siri, 3C said, as well as the development tools that allow Amazon, Apple and Google products to integrate with loyalty programs.

According to the survey, 20 percent of brands already have intelligent assistant integration high on their to-do list. Thirty-five percent rank AI/chatbots as their first priority.

“In 2016, our Mobile Loyalty Report found customers had a tremendous appetite for mobile functionality. This willingness to engage with brands via mobile technology far outpaced the customer experience brands were offering. But brands have responded—implementing more mobile functionality into their loyalty programs and reaping the benefits from this investment,” according to the report.

The report noted that brands did a good job of answering consumers’ requests for better perks. Just over 50 percent of companies represented said they’re providing coupons and special offers via mobile. That’s compared to a paltry 12 percent in the previous year’s poll. This could also explain why memberships are up since 3C found these offers are the top draw for enrollment.

Of those businesses that don’t offer any sort of interaction via mobile, 81 percent said they don’t because they lack resources, are stumped by where to begin or aren’t sure their customers would even be receptive.

3C outlines the steps companies need to take in the short and long-term to up their interactions with customers via loyalty programs—thereby driving sales.

Among their recommendations for the immediate future are polling customers to find out what they want, making the process for signing up easy on mobile and personalizing communications. The next steps for businesses wanting to draw more users would be allowing customers to choose how they want to communicate, integrating digital wallets and testing chatbots. Finally, brands need to be working toward integrating with messaging apps, using AI for improved customer experiences and developing assistants.

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